Living in the Pacific Northwest as a white person has been interesting to say the least. We have so many quirks here (like wearing socks and sandals) but one of my least favorite things is how white people like myself deal with race. I grew up here and my family never really talked about race – living in an overwhelmingly white community and having mostly white friends meant that race was never something I had to really think about too much. The only times race and racism really came up in my family was in the context of my dad’s extended family. He was born and raised in the deep South but considered himself a “good” white person and was a bit of an outlier from the rest of his family.
Because of all that, I always saw racism and white supremacy as a southern thing. I never knew the history of Oregon’s founding or just how entrenched racism is in the entire United States. Up until a couple years ago, I never really thought about how racism exists everywhere in the US, even in the north. About a year and a half ago, I wrote about Oregon’s founding as a racist utopia as an example of how the north isn’t excused from the history of racism and white supremacy. And the fact of the matter is that all of that shit hasn’t gone away. It’s still present, as evident by the Portland MAX stabbings a few months ago or more recently when a different white man was yelling racist slurs at black folks on a different MAX train. Plus, a little over two years ago, Casey Michel wrote about the Northwest Front, a group here in the Pacific Northwest that wants to establish the region as an white ethno-state.
- Inside the Deadly, Racist History of Portland’s ‘White Liberal Bastion’ – Anne Branigin, Splinter News
Many white folks here in the Pacific Northwest, or at least many of the white folks that I know, like to think of this region as a liberal, progressive place. But the reality is that this simply isn’t true. The racism and white supremacy here often doesn’t outwardly look like it does in the south but it’s still here and it’s always been here. There’s an older opinion piece for The Seattle Times that talks about how racism impacts Seattle neighborhoods and how housing deeds in many of these neighborhoods outright say that many people of color couldn’t own that property.
I write about all of this again because I think it’s still incredibly important to know and understand the history of this place, as well as understand the ways in which racism still exists here. It’s important for all us “good/non-racist” white folks to understand all the different ways in which racism and white supremacy exist and how we might be perpetuating it. For example, Chris Newman recently wrote a Facebook post about white, “progressive” folks, going as far as to say that:
Truth is, as a Black dude, I’m far less bothered by the flag wavers in this picture than this town’s progressives assuming its race problem has nothing to do with them. The former is a visual inconvenience. The latter could leave my daughters without a father.
The reason I wanted to include that is to really highlight the necessity of really digging into our own deep-seated racism as white, progressive folks. Calling out folks who are full on white supremacists/Nazis/white nationalists/etc is incredibly important but it’s just as important to really be looking at all the ways in which white progressive folks continue to further racism and white supremacy in our own ways.
All of this is just the beginning of understanding racism and white supremacy in the Pacific Northwest. I wrote this post as a way to understand these issues a bit better and to hopefully push white folks like myself to do the hard but necessary work for racial justice and equity. Understanding our history and our role in all of this is just the beginning. I’ll be writing soon about more things we can and should be doing.